Focus Topics

topic 2 | Activity 5: Health and wellbeing (contd)

Social and emotional wellbeing

The term social and emotional wellbeing has been used to reflect holistic Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander concepts of health:

Aboriginal health does not mean the physical wellbeing of an individual, but refers to the social, emotional and cultural wellbeing of the whole community. For Aboriginal people this is seen in terms of the whole-life-view. Health care services should strive to achieve the state where every individual is able to achieve their full potential as human beings, and must bring about the total wellbeing of their communities. Gee et al 5

The diagram below provides a conceptualisation of social and emotional wellbeing from Australian Indigenous peoples’ perspective:5

Conceptualisation of social and emotional wellbeing

Men’s and Women’s Business

It is important for healthcare workers to be aware that practices for traditional Australian Indigenous peoples have strong gender roles expressed through ‘Men’s Business’ and ‘Women’s Business. Men address men’s matters and women address women’s matters. However, some people may be comfortable with Western ways of relating to men and women, so it is important to ask for the person’s preference rather than make assumptions.6

Key Video Resource – Spirituality (Dadirri) (3:42)

The strengths of Indigenous spiritual practices are being acknowledged in many parts of the world. In Australia, people from both Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and non-Indigenous backgrounds have embraced the Aboriginal spiritual practice of Dadirri, described by Elder, Dr Miriam-Rose Ungunmerr as ‘deep listening and silent awareness’ to support healing and wellbeing.7

Dadirri is from the Ngan’gikurunggurr and Ngen’giwumirri languages of the Aboriginal peoples of the Daly River region (Northern Territory, Australia).

Check the thinking points below for some questions to consider with regard to this video.

  1. Reflect on the concept of social and emotional wellbeing described in this section and review the ‘wheel’ diagram. How is this way of understanding wellbeing similar to or different from your perspective?
  2. Watch the video resource ‘Spirituality (Dadirri)’ and engage in this brief meditation led by Elder, Dr Miriam-Rose Ungunmerr.
  1. Swann, T., M. Poynton, and J. Burns, Summary of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health status – selected topics 2020. 2021.
  2. Australian Bureau of Statistics. Yearbook of Australia – Statistics on the Indigenous Peoples of Australia. 1994; Available from:!OpenDocument.
  3. Sherwood, J., Colonisation – It’s bad for your health: The context of Aboriginal health. Contemporary Nurse, 2013. 46(1): p. 28-40.
  4. Mayi Kuwayu National Study of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Wellbeing-ANU. Mayi Kuwayu Website. 2021; Available from:
  5. Gee, G., et al., Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social and Emotional Wellbeing, in Working Together: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mental health and wellbeing principles and practice Part 1, W.R. Dudgeon P, Editor. 2014, Office of the Prime Minister and Cabinet.
  6. PEPA Project Team, Cultural Considerations: Providing end-of-life care for Aboriginal peoples and Torres Strait Islander peoples. 2020, Program of Experience in the Palliative Approach.
  7. Ungunmerr, M.-R. Miriam Rose Foundation. 2021; Available from: